Japan must persistently act as bridge between nuclear, nonnuclear states

The Yomiuri Shimbun Moving ahead with nuclear disarmament while recognizing the significance of nuclear deterrence — Japan must take the lead in pursuing this difficult goal, as the only country to have suffered atomic bombings.

The Foreign Ministry has hosted the first conference of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament in the city of Hiroshima. The conference was designed for Japan to act as a bridge between nuclear and nonnuclear nations. Fifteen experts from Japan, the United States and Russia as well as nations like Egypt that propelled the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, took part in the meeting.

Nuclear powers did not join the treaty adopted in July, arguing it was not realistic and Japan followed suit. But this does not mean Japan will turn its back on the abolition of nuclear weapons. This group of eminent people embodies that stance.

Fumio Kishida, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, who proposed the creation of the group when he was foreign minister, addressed the group’s first meeting, stressing: “The situation cannot move ahead even a step [toward disarmament] without involving nuclear powers. How can the situation be defused?”

Experts from countries with different positions on nuclear disarmament gathered in the atomic-bombed city. They listened to accounts by hibakusha atomic bombing survivors and exchanged views frankly. This was of no small significance.

After holding its next meeting in the spring of 2018, the group is scheduled to compile recommendations for submission to a meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) set for next April.

The previous conference in 2015 to discuss nuclear disarmament broke down, as it could not adopt a final document. To prevent the NPT framework from losing its substance, it is necessary to find a basis for constructive discussions.

Foster N-disarmament drive

At the meeting of the group of eminent persons, the view was expressed that behind the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons lies irritation with the scant progress in disarmament. The deterioration of the security environment was also pointed out, with it being said that the past dialogue with North Korea has proved ineffective, as its nuclear development advances.

Civic groups called for Japan’s participation in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. But disarmament will not take even a step forward if nuclear arms are banned in name alone and nuclear powers do not join the treaty.

The Japanese government has called for giving priority to the reduction of nuclear arms held by nuclear powers first and establishing a legal framework when their nuclear arsenals are cut to extremely small levels. This could be said to be a realistic proposal.

The important thing is to make North Korea abandon its nuclear development and reconstruct the NPT-based nonproliferation regime, which has been faltering. At the same time, it is imperative to seriously work on the United States and Russia, which together account for about 90 percent of the world’s total arsenal of 15,000 nuclear weapons, and other nuclear countries, to carry out effective disarmament measures.

The First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly adopted in October a draft resolution submitted by Japan on the abolition of nuclear weapons. The resolution clearly says that it “bears in mind there are various approaches towards the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons.” Two nuclear powers, the United States and Britain, were cosponsors of the resolution.

It is essential to ensure the involvement of nuclear powers and make persistent efforts to foster momentum for nuclear disarmament.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 4, 2017)Speech


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